The definitive moment in Tottenham Hotspur’s last season, in retrospect, might have been at Loftus Road in January, when Sandro injured his knee and missed the rest of the race for fourth place.
Spurs missed their Brazilian lynchpin just enough that results dropped and they slipped one costly point behind Arsenal.
How, then, to prevent a repeat? They could buy another Brazil midfielder. Spurs were close to making their first purchase of the summer, with Paulinho seemingly on the brink of a £17million move from Corinthians but it know seems Real Madrid will also make an offer. The 24-year-old is currently playing in the Confederations Cup but after that is set to move to Europe, and has said that he “could not turn down” an offer from Spurs.
Paulinho is not a simple alternative to Sandro, but would certainly help to shoulder the workload in Spurs’ put-upon midfield. He is an authentic box-to-box specialist, with an imposing physical approach and that crucial knack of knowing when to break into the box. Often compared with Frank Lampard, it is his reliability and his goal return that has set him apart for Corinthians and for Brazil.
The heartbeat of the Corinthians team who won the 2011 Brazilian title and then the 2012 Copa Libertadores before beating Chelsea to the Club World Cup, Paulinho certainly comes with a high reputation. Beyond the unique Neymar, Paulinho is widely thought to have been the most consistent player in Brazil over the last year or so.
Of course, not every talented Brazilian player who has come to England has succeeded but there is a robustness about Paulinho which suggests he would settle well. He would certainly combine well with Sandro in a midfield pair. He is more similar in style to Mousa Dembele – although the Belgian seemed to play too many games last year – but a three-man combination of Sandro, Dembele and Paulinho would overload most opponents on both strength and skill. Andre Villas-Boas moved to a 4-3-3 towards the end of last season and that combination would most probably be better than any involving Scott Parker or Tom Huddlestone.
As players always tell us, anything can happen in football, and the deal remains to be finalised, but for a club prone to waiting too long in the transfer market, a swift resolution would be an important and useful start.